The Choices We Make
Ever notice that life is full of choices? In fact, one could argue that in many ways, what we do all day, from the moment we get up until we go to bed, is make choices. We make so many choices that often we don’t even think about them. We just make them.
Some choices are simple and even become routine, while others are life-changing and have eternal consequences, not only for us but even for our own families.
Hence, how crucial that we think through our choices, especially the big ones, the ones that can impact us and our families for the rest of not only our own lives but our family members’ lives, as well.
How many of us, to this day, regret choices we have made? How many, to this day, live with the wreckage from wrong choices made long ago? Fortunately, there is forgiveness. There is redemption, and there is healing, even for the worst of decisions.
This week, we will look in a very broad way at the question of the choices we make, how we should make them, and what impact these choices can have on ourselves and our families.
* Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, April 13.
Some Christians believe that God has chosen, even before a person was born, whether or not that person will be saved. That is, those who in the end are lost eternally are lost because God, in His wisdom (this theology claims), made that choice for this person to be lost. Which means, then, that regardless of their choices, that person will be condemned. Fortunately, as Seventh-day Adventists, we don’t ascribe to that theology.
Instead, we believe that God has chosen for all of us to be saved—and that even before the world began, we were chosen in Him to have eternal life.
However good this news, some people will still be lost (Matt. 25:41). And that’s because, though God has chosen us all, He has given humans a most sacred gift, and that is free will, free choice.
The Lord does not force us to love Him. Love, in order to be love, has to be freely given. In many ways, one could argue that the Bible is the story of God reaching out to lost human beings and seeking, without coercion, to win their hearts to Himself. This reality can best be seen in the life and ministry of Jesus, and how people—using their free will— reacted to Him. Some were drawn to Him; others wanted Him dead.
Yes, God has chosen us for salvation, but, in the end, we have to make the choice to accept that salvation. There is no question that of all the choices we have to make, the choice to serve the Lord is, by far, the most consequential for us and for those who are impacted (such as our immediate family) by our life and the choices that we make in it.
We all know very well the importance of the choices we make. And we all know, too, how wrong choices can very negatively impact our lives and the lives of others. The question is, How can we know how to make the right choices?
1. 1 Thess. 5:17, James 1:5
2. Isa. 1:19; Matt. 7:24, 25
3. Ps. 119:105, 2 Tim. 3:16
4. Prov. 3:5, 6; Isa. 58:11
5. Prov. 15:22, 24:6
In every important decision we make, how crucial that we go to the Lord in prayer, that we make sure our choice will not lead us to violate God’s law in any way—or even the principles in His Word. How crucial that we trust in God, that we surrender our choice to Him; that is, we must pray that the choices we make will glorify Him and that we are ready to surrender our own desires if they go against His plan for our lives. Many times, too, wise counselors can be a great help as we seek to make choices. In the end, we can have great assurance knowing that God loves and wants what’s best for us, and that if we in faith and humility surrender our lives to Him, we can move ahead in faith on the choices we make.
One of the most important choices we’ll ever make is our friends. Most of the time we don’t set out to make friends; often friendships simply develop naturally as we spend time with people who enjoy some of the same things we do.
Proverbs 18:24 says that if we want to have friends, we must be friendly. Sometimes people find themselves alone, but their morose, negative attitude is what drives others away. “Even the best of us have these unlovely traits; and in selecting friends we should choose those who will not be driven away from us when they learn that we are not perfect. Mutual forbearance is called for. We should love and respect one another notwithstanding the faults and imperfections that we cannot help seeing; for this is the Spirit of Christ. Humility and selfdistrust should be cultivated, and a patient tenderness with the faults of others. This will kill out all narrowing selfishness and make us largehearted and generous.”—Ellen G. White, Pastoral Ministry, p. 95.
One of the best-known stories of friendship is that between David and Jonathan. Had Saul, Israel’s first king and Jonathan’s father, been faithful and obedient, his kingdom might have lasted for several generations, and Jonathan could have been the successor to his throne. When Saul proved unworthy of his call, God chose David as the new king of Israel, thus disqualifying Jonathan for what otherwise should have been rightfully his. Here we have a powerful example of how the wrong choices of one family member (Saul) impacted another family member (Jonathan).
But Jonathan was not angry or jealous of David. Instead, he chose to help David by protecting him from the anger of his own father, Saul.
“The soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul” (1 Sam. 18:1, NKJV). What a powerful example of true friendship.
If you’re supposed to choose your friends carefully, you must be even more careful when it comes to choosing your future spouse. Adam was very blessed that God designed his life companion with His own hands and from within himself. Adam’s choice was easy since Eve was not just the only woman, but the perfect woman. The rest of us have a more difficult time, since none of us is perfect and we have many more people to choose from.
Because this decision is so important, God has not left us without guidance in this area of our lives. Besides all the important steps we looked at in Monday’s study, there are some more specific steps to follow in considering the question of marriage (we will look at the whole question of marriage more carefully in lesson 6). Indeed, outside of the choice to serve the Lord, the question of a spouse will almost always be the most consequential choice anyone makes in their lives.
Besides looking for the right person to marry, be the right person first. “ ‘Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets’ ” (Matt. 7:12, NKJV). Someone could find a great potential spouse who has all the qualities one would want, but if the one who wants good qualities in the other lacks them himself or herself, problems will arise.
This is not new—and is certainly seen not only in marriage but in life in general. Paul spends a great deal of time in the opening of Romans talking to those who condemn others for doing what they, the ones condemning, also are guilty of. Or, as Jesus said: “ ‘And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?’ ” (Matt. 7:3, NKJV).
At some point, we have to make the choice about what we want to do with our lives in terms of a job or career. Unless independently wealthy or working full-time at home taking care of the house and family (the most noble of all occupations), many people have to choose a path as far as earning a living goes.
Of course, we all exist in certain circumstances that can, to a great degree, limit our choices regarding a career. But within whatever sphere we exist, we can make choices regarding our occupation that, especially in the context of knowing that we have salvation in Jesus Christ, can give our lives added meaning and purpose. In short, whatever we do, we can do for the glory of God.
We don’t need to be rich to get caught up in the same trap that Solomon did. “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Tim. 6:10, NKJV). One can be poor and love money just as much as someone does who is rich.
Yes, we need to earn a living, but regardless of what we do or how much we make, we need not make the pursuit of wealth an idol. Many families, too, have suffered because of a father who, obsessed with making money, neglected the family in order to try to get rich. How many children, or spouses, would have preferred a humbler lifestyle over an impoverished relationship with the father? In most cases, people would have preferred the former over the latter.
From Creation, God planned for work to be part of life (Gen. 2:15). The danger is when we make our work the center of our life, or it becomes a means of solely acquiring wealth for ourselves. This is the mistake Solomon made. He was searching for meaning in those projects, and even though many brought him a degree of satisfaction, at the end he figured out that they were meaningless.
Further Thought: All through Scripture, we are confronted with the reality of human free will. Even the unfallen Adam and Eve (Genesis 3) had free will, and they unfortunately made the wrong choice with it. If unfallen beings, in perfection, could misuse free will, how much more so beings like us, steeped in sin?
And we need to remember that free will is just that, free, which means that regardless of the pressure on us, both from within and without, we don’t have to choose what is wrong. We can, through the power of God in us, make the right choices with the free will God has given us. Thus, how important that we carefully weigh our decisions, especially thinking about how those decisions can impact our family lives. The freewill choice of Cain to kill his brother surely devastated his family. The freewill decision of Joseph’s brothers to sell him into slavery ruined their father’s life. “And he recognized it and said, ‘It is my son’s tunic. A wild beast has devoured him. Without doubt Joseph is torn to pieces.’ Then Jacob tore his clothes, put sackcloth on his waist, and mourned for his son many days. And all his sons and all his daughters arose to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted, and he said, ‘For I shall go down into the grave to my son in mourning.’ Thus his father wept for him” (Gen. 37:33–35, NKJV).
All through the Bible, as in life, we can find examples of how the free choices of family members, for good or evil, impact others, such as the choices of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram (Num. 16:1–32; see also Dan. 6:23, 24; Gen. 18:19).